- Brief Looks at Recent Thrift Store Acquisitions -
By Mark Patraw
Published on 9/21/15
It's been quite a while since I did a new volume of Toy Talk, but Jabba the Hutt demanded five-star-treatment, and nobody says "No" to that slimy gangster! Well, nobody but Princess Leia Organa at any rate . . .
As always, if anyone reading this knows more information about any of these items, that I haven't already discussed below, and would like to share, or just chat about toys, feel free to e-mail me and let me know!
Toy line: Betty Spaghetty.
Manufacturer: McDonald's for Ohio Art Company (2003).
What I paid: Betty (bagged with an incomplete, full-sized Hannah) was fifty cents on 9/5/14. Mandy & Heidi (bagged together) were also fifty cents on 8/6/15. All three were purchased from the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: Roughly 6.5 cm (2.6") wide x 18.0 cm (7.1") tall. Heidi's a wee bit taller than the other two, due to her ponytail.
Articulation: Rotating neck, shoulders, waist, and hips. Bendable arms and legs.
Notable features: Interchangeable parts.
The Ohio Art Company introduced the world to Betty Spaghetty in 1998. She, and her friends, were different from the typical Barbie-type doll in that all of their body parts were modular and interchangeable, allowing children to recombine them however they wished to create customized looks. The Betty Spaghetty figures also sported slim, bendable limbs (wires encased in rubbery sheaths), hence the pasta part of the toy line's name.
I only have one, incomplete Betty Spaghetty girl at the moment (Hannah, whom I touched on briefly, last time), however, McDonald's also got in on the fun in 2003 with a Happy Meal assortment, which is what I'm focusing at here. The set consisted of four girls, Betty herself (blonde), Mandy (redhead), Heidi (blue hair), and Hannah (purple locks, and the only one of the quartet that I'm currently missing).
Proportionately, the McDonald's dolls are shorter (which arguably makes them look like "kids" versions of the normal figures), but they have interchangeable parts too, just like Ohio Art's "real" product. Alas, the fast food giant didn't execute that concept to the extent that they could, and should, have though. The pelvis and legs come apart into separate pieces (the legs are pretty hard to get on/off though), but the upper torso, arms, and head are all stuck together as one unit (as far as I can tell--I really yanked on them hard and nothing came free), which severely limits your recombination options. In short, you can swap out their skirts/shorts and legs, but nothing else. That's very disappointing.
The girls' sculpts are very clean/simplistic and molded in bright, garish color combinations. As a result, these Betty Spaghetty toys are very "childish" looking, which won't appeal to everyone, but the style isn't without its charms. Betty has loose, but unremovable, yellow bracelets on her arms that the other two lack too. When I got her, I was surprised, given Betty's fairly large dimensions, to discover that she was actually a fast food toy, as McDonald's dolls are usually about half this size. Heck, these three are bigger than a lot of my action figures!
Paint is similarly minimalistic, restricted primarily to the facial features and solid colors on the hair and shoes. You can't see if very well in my photos, or even in person, but Heidi has the Japanese kanji for jasmine ("ri") molded onto the front of her yellow shirt, which really should have gotten some paint (like Betty's necktie) to make it stand out.
All three have ponytails made out of six strands of colorful cord. The rest of their hair, on the heads, is hard, sculpted plastic. Originally, the tresses would hang loose on all of them, like Betty's, but my Mandy and Heidi came with their hair already braided (and better/neater than I could probably manage), which I liked, so, I left it that way.
With the exception of their limited ability to exchange parts, I dig McDonald's take on the Betty Spaghetty license. Their "loud" and zany style really stands out from all of the other dolls in my collection. All I need to do now is find a Hannah, in good shape, to complete the set (and some more regular-sized Betty Spaghetty parts to finish my incomplete one).
Toy line: Bratzillaz.
Manufacturer: MGA (2012).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 6/20/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 9.5 cm (3.7") long x 3.7 (1.5") wide x 7.1 cm (2.8") tall.
Articulation: Necks and buttons.
Notable features: Electronic barking/meowing.
Bratzillaz was a recent spinoff of the "normal" Bratz line, re-imagining the teenaged girls with the "passion for fashion" as witches studying at a magic academy. Chloe became "Cloetta Spelletta", Yasmin "Yasmina Clairvoya", Sasha "Sashabella Paws", Jade "Jade J'Adore", Meygan "Meygana Broomstix", and Fianna "Fianna Fins" (a mermaid). Okay, technically they're the "normal" Bratz girls' cousins, who just happen to have very similar names, but whatever. Compared to the standard model, the Bratzillaz dolls were larger, better articulated, had real feet (instead of pegs), and had beautiful, inset eyes (rather than painted ones). As of this writing, I have ten regular Bratz (eight girls and two boys) and four Li'l Bratz, but, alas, no Bratzillaz. I've never seen a single one in a thrift store, but I did come very close to buying the original Sashabella and Meygana, brand-new, when they were clearanced at my local Wal-Mart, but, for some reason (probably because I bought video games instead), I didn't pull the trigger.
Each of the girls also had a unique, and often monstrous, pet. In the United States, said critters were sold separately, while in Europe, they were included with the dolls (but they also cost more as a result too). I remember that our Wal-Mart still couldn't move the pets on clearance. This stapled-together, half-dog/half-cat cutie is "Barkthalameow" (clever name!), Cloetta Spelletta's pet pooch/kitty. Cloetta herself has two-toned hair/clothing and mismatched eyes, so Barkthalameow matches its mistress' duality.
The animal's design is pretty simple and cartoon-ish, but I like it. The concept reminds me a lot of that old Nickelodeon cartoon, Catdog. The paintwork is a little on the sloppy side, especially the dog's features (more proof that cats are superior), but passable. There are a couple of aspects about the toy's construction that detract from its appearance and bug me though. One, the interior of the legs are hollow (to save on plastic), which looks terrible and cheap, and, two, there's an absurd amount of text molded onto the body (copyrights, notice of compliance with accepting interference from other devices, and battery instructions). That's all probably government mandated, but I feel that it'd be better if the manufacturer were allowed to print all of that information on a tag, like you see on stuffed animals, and have that sticking out of the battery compartment, so you could tear it off if you didn't want it, rather than marring the toy's surface like that.
Articulation isn't too important on a smaller toy pet like this, but at least Barkthalameow has a couple of joints. Both heads rotate completely around at the neck, allowing you to make the two critters look in different directions, or at each other. It would have been great to get pivoting shoulders/hips too, but no such luck. Thankfully, the legs are positioned in such a way that Barkthalameow stands very well on its own and won't tip over easily (which is more than can be said for a lot of dolls).
Barkthalameow has two buttons on its back. One makes the creature meow, the other makes it bark, and, hilariously, the feline is the one that barks and the canine is the one that meows. I suppose it could be a simple goof-up, but I really want to believe that this was an entirely intentional design choice on MGA's part. The heart-shaped speaker (nice touch!) is located on the dog's breast and the battery compartment is underneath the animal, on its belly (you'll need a Phillips screwdriver to open it if you ever want to change/remove the two button cells).
Scale comparison with normal Bratz and Li'l Bratz dolls.
It would have been nice if the legs had joints at the hips/shoulders, and if there were less text molded on the body, but, I really love this thing regardless. Barkthalameow is equal parts cute and horrific, the perfect pet for a witch, and the sound feature works great.
Toy line: South Park.
Manufacturer: Toy Factory for Comedy Partners (2014).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 9/18/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 22.0 cm (8.7") wide x 24.0 cm (9.4") tall.
Notable features: None.
South Park, the creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is Comedy Central's popular (and controversial) animated sitcom that primarily focuses on the misadventures of four boys in the titular fictional town, located in Colorado, U.S.A. This is a plush figure of one of that quartet, Kyle Broflovski. While Kyle gets into his share of mischief, he's more of a "straight man", often exhibiting mature behavior and reasoning far beyond his years. His family is also Jewish, so he's often the butt of jokes revolving around religious stereotypes, particularly from his "friend", the incredibly rude and bigoted Eric Cartman.
The figure is put together nicely. With the exception of a few loose strands here-and-there, Kyle is well-sewn with quality material and the colors are vibrant. There are some cardboard inserts in the soles of his feet, and the top of his hat, to keep them rigid and flat, but, alas, he still can't stand on his own, even with that additional support. If you want to, you can pull up his jacket (there's just more orange underneath it though), or flip his hat's ear/forehead flaps up-or-down.
Proportionately, this fabric rendition of Kyle matches his cartoon appearance pretty well. Like a lot of plush figures, he's kind of "flat/thin" when you view him from the sides (his head should be more spherical for example), but as that's the norm with this type of toy, I've come to expect that and it usually doesn't bother me anymore.
You want a textbook example of mixed signals? The swing tag attached to Kyle's left hand notes that this plush toy is for ages 18+ (doubtlessly due to the mature, and often crude, nature of the show), yet also advises you to cut off all of the tags/fasteners before giving Kyle to a child, and, adding even more confusion, the tush tags contradict the wrist directions even more, informing us that he's for ages 3-and-up. So, which is it, Toy Factory, adults, kids, or both? In all seriousness, I agree that the South Park program is NOT appropriate for younger children, but, as this toy doesn't talk or have anything even remotely objectionable about it (unless your religion forbids wearing green hats and mittens or something), I fail to see how it could be detrimental for a child to have and play with Kyle.
Also, just like the giant Gremlins 2 Mohawk mogwai plush I wrote about a while back, Kyle's wrist swing tag is also adamant that he's not for retail sale, only prize redemption. I guess he's only meant to be won in carnival games or in those crane machine things. How can you even enforce a nonsense rule like that? Are the Plush Prize Police ("Triple-P" to civilians like you and me) going to come busting into the thrift store I bought this from some day and confiscate every stuffed toy with that notice on it?
I love the South Park cartoon (although some episodes are a lot better than others), but Kyle is a pretty boring character in my opinion that I've never really had strong feelings about, one way or the other, but then, it's nearly impossible to come off as anything but tame in comparison to the nonstop insanity that is Eric Cartman (heck, even Toy Factory seems to know who the real star is, they plastered Eric's face on Kyle's swing tag after all). So, as a fan of the show, I'm happy to have this plush representation of Kyle, but he wouldn't be my top pick if I was given the choice. Eric (arguably the worst-behaved fictional child ever) and Butters (the eternally naive optimist) are my two favorites from the franchise.
Toy line: Star Wars.
Manufacturer: Hasbro for Lucas Films Limited (2010).
What I paid: Three dollars on 9/10/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
[Jabba] 24.0 cm (9.4") long x 9.5 cm (3.7") wide x 9.5 cm (3.7") tall.
[Salacious Crumb] 2.8 cm (1.1") wide x 3.8 cm (1.5") deep x 4.0 cm (1.6") tall.
[Dais (bare)] 25.7 cm (10.1") long x 15.5 cm (6.1") wide x 4.5 cm (1.8") tall.
[Jabba] Shoulders, elbows, mid-torso, and bendable tail.
[Salacious Crumb] Neck, shoulders, and hips.
[Dais] Four wheels.
Notable features: None.
Ah, now this bloated slug, and his accompanying goodies, are some toys that I've really wanted for the longest time! Good ol' Jabba Desilijic Tiure, or, as he's more commonly known, Jabba the Hutt, is finally a part of my Star Wars collection!
Although the crime lord was briefly mentioned in both A New Hope (1979) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), we didn't get our first real look at the disgusting villain until Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983. Prior to that, Jabba did appear in some of Marvel's comic book adaptations of Star Wars, but his design (a bipedal humanoid alien) did not match the creature used in Return of the Jedi, as such, it isn't considered canon. George Lucas also later inserted a computer-generated Jabba the Hutt (superimposing the digital model over the human stand-in, Declan Mulholland, that Harrison Ford had been interacting with) into a scene cut from the original release of A New Hope that was restored to the Special Edition of said film that was produced in 1997.
I believe that this particular Jabba playset was a 2010 Wal-Mart exclusive and cost around $35 brand new at the time. Besides what you see here, a complete sample should also include Jabba's green Twi'lek dancing slave girl, Oola (whom he cruelly fed to the Rancor beast located in the dungeon beneath his dais when she became uncooperative) and a long cord "leash" for her neck collar. Selling a toy that depicts an enslaved, abused, and then murdered woman, even a fictional one, is pretty unseemly when you think about it, so, while she's a nice figure, Oola's absence here may very well be for the best.
The crime boss is looking superb. Jabba's anatomy and proportions seem spot on to me and he's got all the detailed wrinkles and bumps that you'd expect. Hasbro's artist(s) even remembered the scar on his tail and that silly tattoo on his right forearm! Jabba's mostly green and tan/peach, and, while those colors contrast nicely, they also seem a bit too bright to me, but then I have to remember that his desert palace in the film was fairly gloomy, so the huge puppet's skin probably appeared darker than it actually was in person. I kind of wish that the inside of Jabba's mouth got some black paint though, as it's just the same color as the rest of the surrounding flesh, which looks off on close inspection, but it's fine when it's in shadow.
The only thing about this Jabba toy that I really don't care for is that his entire lower body is hollow rubber, with a flexible armature inside. I understand the design philosophy there--you get a bendable appendage with a seamless appearance (well, the rubber does crease, but then, so does our flesh when we bend), but I would have preferred that it had been made with hard plastic, with maybe a cut joint or two for the last third of the tail, instead. While mine is fine, rubber toys (especially latex, which, thankfully, this isn't) have a tendency to degrade, rip, and fall apart as time goes by; I'd hate to see that happen to poor Jabba.
The crime boss is certainly the star attraction, but his little court jester/pet, the Kowakian Monkey-Lizard, Salacious B. Crumb, is also an important part of the set. That nasty little monster was nearly always by Jabba's side, cackling at the misfortune of others. In the expanded fiction, Jabba let Crumb continue to live provided that the big-eared creature made him laugh at least once a day, but, if he ever failed to do so, the Hutt vowed to eat him as punishment (most day jobs don't seem too stressful in comparison to that, eh?)
This Salacious Crumb toy is actually a re-use, from an earlier, 2007 release of a Return of the Jedi C-3PO figure, that had an eye that could be pulled out, allowing you to re-enact the scene from the film where Crumb was doing just that to the poor droid, which is why the monster's right hand is shaped to hold a cylindrical object. His head looks absurdly flat to me in profile, but maybe that's how the actual movie puppet was designed, I don't know. Other than that, the toy is an excellent representation of the little fiend. With only five points of articulation, Salacious B. Crumb isn't too mobile, but, for a smaller "accessory" figure, that's acceptable, and one of Jabba's pillows has depressions molded into it that are just right for Crumb to rest his wrinkled posterior comfortably upon in a sitting position.
While Jabba's dais is little more than a slab of concrete, it's been well-executed here, largely due to the gray paint wash which really brings out the texture. The six cyclopean beast ring "knockers" mounted on the front and sides of the structure provide convenient places to tether Jabba's unfortunate slaves. Four black wheels are located on the underside, so you can easily roll Jabba back-and-forth if you so desire. Take care to remember that they're there though, as Jabba, and anything else on the dais' surface, can easily take a spill if you place it on a slightly inclined surface and the thing cruises away on you--trust me, I speak from experience, and, no, the Hutt was not amused.
Next to the dais, Jabba's arm rest and hookah pipe assembly are the most important accessories you need to complete his signature look. Doubtlessly, the whole smoking slug thing was inspired by Lewis Carroll's puffing caterpillar from his Alice in Wonderland children's book. I particularly like the greenish wash on the arm rest, which gives the item a realistic, tarnished alloy finish. The blue tube that connects the small pipe to the transparent bottle is flexible, but it doesn't have a wire running through its length, so, it can be tricky to get it to go where you want it to. Sadly, this particular version of Jabba didn't come with any Klatooine Paddy Frogs, his favorite snack (which the gangster usually kept, marinated, in the fluid at the bottom "bulb" of the hookah bottle).
The seven pillows weren't particularly necessary accessories, but they really do add some pizzazz to the dais display and make it look "lived in". Surprisingly, they appear to all be unique sculpts too, rather than copies of one another, which would have been perfectly acceptable for such minor components.
I had a lot of Kenner's original Star Wars toys when I was a kid, including Jabba's lovely Rancor, but he, and his accompanying playset, were always something that I really wanted but never got, so, finally snagging the fat slug (albeit a newer, superior version, not the vintage one) really made my day. Getting Jabba nearly complete was really a stroke of luck too, making him well worth the three dollars that I paid. Other than his rubbery, hollow tail, I have no complaints. Now, I just need to accumulate some of Jabba's infamous entourage/minions (Gamorreans Guards, Bib Fortuna, etc.) to flesh out the display a bit.
Toy line: Transformers: Robot Heroes.
Manufacturer: Hasbro/Takara (2007).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents, each, on 2/6/15 (Ultra Magnus), 7/11/15 (Blaster), 7/15/15 (Kickback), and 9/16/15 (Unicron), all at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
[Ultra Magnus] 5.7 cm (2.2") wide x 6.7 cm (2.6") tall.
[Blaster] 5.2 cm (2.0") wide x 5.5 cm (2.2") tall.
[Kickback] 5.1 cm (2.0") wide x 6.0 cm (2.4") tall.
[Unicron] 8.3 cm (3.3") wide x 5.8 cm (2.3") tall.
Articulation: Shoulders and neck, except for Unicron, who only moves at the shoulders (probably because of his collar).
Notable features: None.
As I've mentioned in the past, the Robot Heroes line consists of minimally-articulated, super-deformed "kids" versions of Transformers characters that don't actually transform. Hasbro started out by just doing the computer-generated Autobot and Decepticon designs from the live-action movies, but they soon moved on to what I, and a lot of other fans, really like and wanted, the original G1 (Generation One) versions. Here's a look at another four of the little guys that I've added to my collection this year:
Ultra Magnus is the Autobot's city commander and, like Unicron, who I'll discuss shortly, made his debut in 1986's Transformers: The Movie. He's an outstanding soldier, but reluctant to take on a leadership role, although he performs well enough when he must assume authority. After Optimus Prime was mortally wounded at the beginning of said film, the dying hero tried to pass on the all-important creation matrix, and leadership of the Autobots, to Magnus, but the device had other ideas and picked the impetuous Hotrod instead. Magnus was fine with that though, and willingly followed Hotrod in the secondary support role that he preferred. If he transformed, this toy's alternate form would be a semi with attached car carrier trailer, the perfect thing for transporting his fellow Autobots.
Magnus came out great, has the size/stature that he should, and I like his pointing finger and grin, which give him a lot of personality. Most of these Robot Heroes toys don't have any weapons, but UM retained his shoulder-mounted missile launchers. He also has more paint wear than any of the other figures pictured; either he saw a lot of play or that white paint isn't very thick.
Originally, this Ultra Magnus toy was sold in a two-pack with the Decepticon's notorious leader, Megatron (Galvatron, Megatron's deadlier "reborn" form, from said film, would arguably have been a better choice).
Blaster is the Autobot's communication specialist, and the heroic counterpart to the Decepticon's Soundwave (i.e., they both transformed into tape players, a big boom box in Blaster's case, and had smaller cassette minions/comrades that fit into their tape decks). Unsurprisingly, Blaster has a "loud" personality and loves Earth's Rock 'n Roll music genre.
While his sculpt/paint are pretty good, alas, Blaster is posed in that crouched-down position that I don't care for. I'm not sure why Hasbro's sculptors did that with so many of these stylized figures (to fit them into the packaging's plastic bubble maybe?)
Originally, this Blaster toy was sold in a two-pack with the Decepticon's jet warrior, the brash, but cowardly, Thrust.
Kickback is the Decepticon's Insecticon espionage expert. In his tiny, grasshopper alternative form, he would unobtrusively spy on the Autobots, as well as his more untrustworthy Decepticon comrades, and report their activities back to Megatron. Kickback has an incredibly charming personality, but that's only a shallow facade that he uses to manipulate friend and foe alike to get what he wants.
Kickback's figure looks great, and the predominantly black color scheme gives him an appropriately sinister appearance for a villain. The forearms/hands are a bit too large and elongated for my tastes, but disproportion is part of the signature look of these toys. Kickback's body is also a bit scrunched-up, but not nearly as badly as Blaster's.
Originally, this Kickback toy was sold in a two-pack with the Autobot's tough-as-nails security specialist, Ironhide. Given the Decepticon's espionage role, that's an excellent pairing in my opinion.
Unlike the other three figures shown, Unicron has no interest in the Autobots' and Decepticons' civil war, rather, he's an all-consuming, evil entity (imagine the robotic love-child of Galactus and Satan) that wants to devour them all, as well as their homeworld of Cybertron. Or, as He likes to put it, "That which does not become a part of me, shall become one with the great void." He was the primary antagonist of the 1986 animated Transformers film (voiced by the late Orson Welles), and has remained the most dire threat that the sentient shape-changing robots have continued to face over the years. As Unicron's alternate form is literally a planet, this figure is horribly out of scale; Unicron should be absolutely gigantic in proportion to the other three, but that's obviously not practical for a toy line.
Unicron looks stellar (pun-intended), with his horned head and bearded face giving a suitably devilish vibe to his features. I like that Hasbro did his shoulder spines (they become a ring, like Saturn's, in his planet form) as glued-on, separately-molded elements, rather than trying to incorporate them into the arm sculpts, which probably wouldn't have come out very well.
Originally, this Unicron toy was sold in a two-pack with a special "Opened-Matrix" version of the Autobot's fearless leader, Optimus Prime. I think that Rodimus Prime (Hotrod's "mature" form), the one who actually defeated Unicron at the end of the film with the creation matrix (as mentioned earlier, Optimus was killed at the beginning of the movie), would have been a much better selection though.
Scale comparison with the original 1986 Transformers G1 Rodimus Prime toy.
I liked the more modern CG movie versions of the Robot Heroes fine, but it really makes a big difference to get interpretations of the classic Transformers cartoon/toy characters, that I grew up with and actually care about, instead. Don't get me wrong, I'm still buying the newer film designs too (I picked up a Barricade the same day that I got Kickback), but, given the choice, nostalgia wins in this case.
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